The violent conflict between slavery proponents and abolitionists in “Bleeding Kansas” focused national attention on Kansas sovereignty and territorial law. The issue was one of the nation's most widely debated political crises in the years leading up to the Civil War.
Although the Fugitive Slave Law made assisting runaway slaves a hanging offense in Kansas Territory, abolitionists continued to help slaves escaping from Missouri. Escapees hid in caves, barns, cellars, attics, and secret rooms until they could get to the next station. The names of Underground Railroad “conductors” and locations of “stations” were carefully guarded secrets.